Summary: In the place of your affliction, trust Him to use you for His glory, to make you forget your pain, and to make you fruitful as you live your life for Him.
In 1969, in a science lab in New Jersey, Canadian physicist Willard Boyle and his colleagues invented the concept of an electronic eye. Using their knowledge of mathematics and the behavior of light they provided the science behind digital cameras known as a charged-coupled device or CCD. The CCD technology revolutionized photography, as light could now be captured electronically instead of on film. CCD technology is used on the Hubble telescope and the Mars Lunar probe. It was Boyle's invention that allowed us to see the surface of Mars for the first time. In 2009 Boyle was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.
A few years after the original invention of CCD technology, Boyle walked into a store to purchase a new digital camera based on his invention. During the visit, the salesman tried to explain the intricacies of the digital camera, but stopped, feeling it was too complicated for his customer to understand. According to one long-time friend, Boyle was normally a humble man, but on this occasion he was taken aback by the salesman's arrogance and disrespect. So Boyle bluntly replied: “No need to explain. I invented it.” When the salesman didn't believe him, Boyle told the salesman to type “Willard S. Boyle” into his computer and see for himself. A Nikon representative in the store heard the exchange and immediately came over to have his photograph taken with the famous inventor. (Allison Lawlor, “Master of Light invents a photo revolution,” Globe and Mail, 5-21-11; www.PreachingToday.com)
There are a lot of “Willard Boyle” types around here. They seem like ordinary people, but when you do a little research into their background, you discover that they are indeed very remarkable. I’m talking about all those of us who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible says that we are a chosen people, kings and priests in God’s Kingdom (1 Peter 2:9), given the “right to be called sons of God” (John 1:12). Through faith in Christ, we join the ranks of believers from all ages whom God has used in remarkable ways even in difficult times and difficult places.
Is that where you find yourself today – in a difficult time and place? Then let me encourage you from the story of Joseph who found himself in an Egyptian prison after being sold into slavery. He had been a slave and a prisoner for 13 long years (Genesis 37:2; 41:45), forgotten by his family and those he tried to help. But even there, in the place of his affliction, God used Joseph in a remarkable way.
If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 41, Genesis 41, where we pick up the story at the end of those 13 years, two years after he helped one of Pharaoh’s officials in prison. Joseph had asked this official to mention him to Pharaoh, but that official forgot all about Joseph.
Genesis 41:1-2 After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows, attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. (ESV)
Now, cows coming out of the water to graze are not an unusual sight anywhere where it’s hot. They like to stand about half submerged in water where they find refuge from the heat and the flies. Then when they get hungry, they come out of the water for some grass. This is not an unusual sight even in ancient Egypt. What was unusual was the scene that followed.
Genesis 41:3-6 And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke. And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind (ESV) – a dry, devastating, desert wind.
Genesis 41:7-8 And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. So in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh. (ESV)
All the scholars and experts of Egypt were clueless, and these were men who had done extensive research in this area. Magicians and wise men were experts in the interpretation of dreams and omens, but Pharaoh’s dreams had them stumped.
Genesis 41:9-14 Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “I remember my offenses today. When Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own interpretation. A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.” Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. (ESV)